Place Names arts and culture project
Bringing research, arts, culture and community together
Place Names is a five year program aimed at engaging communities across Noongar country and beyond in the Aboriginal stories, language and culture of each place. The project is an initiative based on Professor Len Collard’s long term research. CAN’s federally funded initiative aims to explore the meaning of towns and places with Noongar names, bringing them to life through film and art and encourage the use of the Noongar words for places that were used pre-colonisation.
Building on Professor Collard’s well-established research, CAN’s focus is to work closely with communities to explore the Noongar language origins of town and place names using a variety of contemporary art forms that reflect language, place and identity.
In 2017, CAN began creative community consultation in the Wagyl Kaip (Albany) and Whadjuk (Langford) area.
The Place Names program is funded through the Department of Communications & The Arts.
Place Names – the research
Place names in the southwest of Western Australia are commonly derived from Noongar, the Aboriginal language of the region. However, the story of these place names is yet to be fully appreciated. As Noongar language is the basis of geographical nomenclature for many names for towns, localities and landmarks in the southwest, current, comprehensive and critical research and analysis of Noongar language documentation is required to interpret and reveal the ancient meanings of these names.
CAN is partnering with Albany’s Follow the Dream program to empower young Noongar people to document their culture, language, history, identity and sense of place through film.
According to the last census, there are less than 400 fluent speakers of Noongar language left. CAN documentary making program with the Follow the Dream students at Albany Senior High School and North Albany Senior High School has been a fun and inspiring to engage students to learning Noongar language, through interviewing Elders and learning more about the meaning of their local place names.
Through a series of intensive hands-on workshops, the young people learnt the process of making short films, including how to operate camera and sound equipment, filming techniques, scriptwriting and editing. The students also interviewed local Elders, enabling intergenerational cultural transmission along the way.
This project will culminate in a short documentary that celebrates the importance of language and its connection to place and identity and will be released in 2018.
Place Names also commenced in the Whadjuk region at the Langford Aboriginal Association with weekly workshops in various mediums including papier mache, resin, clay and casting techniques and sculpture, all exploring the themes of Place Names with a focus on nature and the local environment. Over five weeks, more than 45 people attended these sessions. Professor Len Collard attended the last session in December at which participants worked with Noongar language cards to draw out existing knowledge in the community, explore local place names and decode new and old meanings.